Dalit women face violence due to assertion to access basic resources: Report

All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) has come up with a status report titled ‘Dalit Women Rise for Justice- Status Report 2021’ which deals with various aspects of the struggle of Dalit women in India in accessing justice and claiming human rights to enjoy the equal socio-economic and political status.

According to the new report, Dalit women continue to face violence due to assertion to access the basic resources of land, water, sanitation facilities, education, and payment of wages.

The report documents the nature of response of formal state institutions including Police, Courts and other relevant departments, and the influencing role of informal institutions, including the social groups/neighbourhood from where the survivors hail in cases of atrocities.

AIDMAM, an autonomous unit of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) is a Delhi-based organization working for addressing severe vulnerabilities faced by 80 million Dalit women and girls who lie at the bottom of caste, class, and gender hierarchies in India.

The report was released on the International Women’s Day chaired by Sarika Chaudhary, Member, Delhi State Women Commission.

Chaudhary spoke in her address that most of the cases which women commission comes across are pertaining to SC and ST women.

S.K. Thorat Former Chairperson for University Grant Commission, Chairperson Indian Institute of Dalit Studies stated that due to class hierarchy, there is a huge distinction between Dalit women and other women.

“This report statistically analyzes the socio-economic and political aspect of Dalit women. This is an area of serious concern of Dalit women. We cannot expect the overall development of Dalit women without focusing on this aspect,” Thorat added.

Beena Pallical, General Secretary of Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan-NCDHR, Yashoda, Convener of SC&ST Monitoring and Strengthening Committee, Karnataka, Judith Anne, Researcher and Programme Associate, NDMJNCDHR, Annie Raja, General Secretary of National Federation of Indian Women, Annie Namala, Convener of Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, Sunita Dhar, a senior activist, Pooja Director of International Budget Partnership and Paul Divakar, General Secretary, Asia Dalit Rights Forum extended their solidarity in their address to the Dalit women’s cause.

Abirami Jotheeswaran, Director, AIDMAM stressed that the government does not record the desegregated data of murder, gangrape, human trafficking for various purpose against the Dalit women and minor girls.

Education

According to the report, the literacy rate among Dalit women is 56.5% with 52.6% literacy in rural areas and 68.6% literacy in urban areas.

The dropout rate is 18.32% at the level of secondary education among Dalit women in 2013-14, the report states.

A comparison between Dalits and dominant caste at the higher education level shows that the enrolment rate of all Dalit communities (17.7%) is much lower than that of dominant caste (35.2%). Among the Dalits, the enrolment rate for Dalit women (15.6%) is lower than that of Dalit men, at the higher education level.

As per the overall analysis of the education status of Dalit women, the enrolment ratio for Dalit women starts at 99% at the primary level of education. It falls to a meagre 15.6% at higher education levels, indicating high dropout levels leading to increased participation in labour-based occupations compared with skill-based professions.

The report states: “The decline in the Gross Enrolment Ratio of SC girls at all levels of education indicates the alarming and eye-opening status of education among SC girls in India.”

Health

The Dalit women’s body’s report claimed that there is a stark difference between Dalit women and men’s health status in India, as is also the case for all women and men.

“For the Dalits and other marginalized sections of society, India’s medical and health care sector is also biased and discriminatory towards them. This discrimination in providing access to health and medical facilities is validated by the data provided by NFHS-4, 2015-16,” it said.

The significant indicators of health, such as mortality rate, anaemia, and body weight in both adults and children, are lower for the SC/ST or OBCs than others.

The infant mortality rate is 40 among Dalit girl children (30 for other women) and under-five mortality rate is 53 for Dalit girl children (37 in others).

Employment

In India, both in rural and urban areas, the employment rate of women is much lower than men. Only 22% of women are engaged in employment, while 71.2% of men are engaged in employment across various sectors. The gender gap in employment is prevalent across all social groups, with about 24% of SC women being employed across sectors, as compared with 72% of SC men.

According to the report, due to the high poverty level, the employment rate of Dalit women (23.9%) has been much higher than Dominant caste women (18%) both in rural and urban areas.

Self-employment among Dalit women is the lowest across all social groups. Of all self-employed women, less Dalit women are self-employed (37.7%), as compared to dominant caste women (55%). Of the total women casual labourers, a majority of them are Dalits.

The share of SC women and dominant caste women in self-employment is different, which indicates a difference in ownership of income-earning assets.

Mentioning the Agriculture Census, the report states that only 2,329 Dalit women own operational agricultural holdings in the country in joint or individual ownership.

Political representation

Only 12 elected Dalit women representatives in Lok Sabha out of 78 women members of the house, the AIDMAM report noted.

The report sttaes: “There is no reservation for Dalits in the Rajya Sabha. Currently, there are 27 elected women representatives out of the 245 seats in the Rajya Sabha.26 It is outrageous that Dalit women do not form even one percent of the representation in Rajya Sabha.”

The report also finds that there is no disaggregated data available for Dalit women in Panchayat.

According to AIDMAM, this state of social, economic, educational and political vulnerability in the country make Dalit women easy prey to the increasing violence and crime against them.

Barriers to justice experienced by Dalit survivors of caste and gender-based violence

The report is also a compilation of AIDMAM’s efforts in assisting the Dalit women through monitoring and advocacy with the police and administration in the cases of caste and gender based violence in all operational states.

The Dalit women’s body has identified 81 cases of severe caste and gender based violence of different forms from Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for the period of 2018-2020.

The major forms of violence against Dalit women included rape, gangrape, attempt to rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, murder (accompanied by rape, gangrape or kidnapping), witch-hunting, mass attacks with physical assault, loss of lives and property, and social boycott, according to the observations made in the report.

The report has analysed six years of data recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for violence against Dalit women from 2014 to 2019.

Crimes against Dalit women and girls constitute 15.11% (38,038 incidents) of the total crimes against Dalits in these last six years from 2014-2019. As per the NCRB data of 2019, 10 Dalit women and girls are raped every day.

According to the report, the absence of disaggregated data prior to 2013 for crimes against Dalit women and girls shrouds the extent and nature of crimes in government records.

Before 2013, only ‘rape’ and kidnapping and ‘abduction’ were recorded, without any specification of who was the target of the offence, the report noted.

It also said that the NCRB does not provide disaggregated data of all-crimes against all-Dalit women and all-Dalit minor girls – Trafficking for various purposes, gang rape, among others, is not recorded.

The report also said that there is 155.35% rise in the cases of Insult to modesty of Dalit women from 2014 (56 incidents) to 2019 (143 incidents).

Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively top the list of incidents of violence against Dalit women from 2014-2019 based on the cases registered under the SCs & STs (PoA) Act.

The role of police and courts in dealing with the cases of Dalit women and the increasing violence against Dalit women is discussed in the report on the basis on the NCRB reports of 2014-2019.

Police Disposal pendency for all-crimes against Dalit women and girls for six-years from 2014-2019 is 27%, with 80% of cases charge-sheeted. Court Disposal level (where role of Special Public Prosecutor and Special and Exclusive Courts, which are special provisions under the SCs & STs (PoA) Act. The overall conviction rate at Special Courts for six-years from 2014-2019 is recorded at 29.15%, acquittal rate at 68.25% and pendency rate at 88.48%.

“This demonstrates the poor response of Indian courts in tackling atrocities committed against Dalit women and girls,” the AIDMAM said.

AIDMAM’s legal intervention in 81 cases

“There has been delay, discouragement or refusal by police to file complaint at the very first instant. FIRs are lodged after regular follow-up, intervention and pressure by AIDMAM,” the Dalit women’s body accused.

Of the 81 cases included; FIRs were filed for 95.06% (77 incidents) cases, Out of 77 cases, 28 FIRs were filed with the intervention of AIDMAM with the police authorities.

It also said that the procedure is delayed by police in producing the survivor to Judicial Magistrate for recording her statement, under section 164 CrPC.

“This statement of the rape survivor is an essential part of the prosecution and police is duty-bound to take the rape survivor to the nearest Judicial Magistrate for recording her statement.”

It also talked about the counter cases registred against the survivors of the violence.

The report went to say: “Embroiling the survivor in a false counter case serves to distract, harass, and discourage the survivors/ families from following their own case. Out of 81 cases, 32.1% (26 incidents) of counter cases are filed against the Dalit women and their families by dominant caste.”

The report said that compensation was paid to 31 survivors of the 81 cases, ie. 40.26 per cent of the total FIRs. This cumulative amount of Rs 13.6 million was paid by states after the AIDMAM followed up on the cases, according to the report.

In the 77 cases registered out of 81 incidents, arrests were made in 51 cases only, i.e., 66.23% of total FIRs.

The group’s legal intervention experience has revealed that the police do not invoke proper sections under the SCs & STs (PoA) Act during registration of FIR or filing of charge sheet.

The report claims: “In cases where conviction is awarded, the accused are sentenced under the sections of the Indian Penal Code and other Acts while completely avoiding the SCs & STs (PoA) Act. Failing to sentence the accused under the SCs & STs (PoA) Act while awarding conviction under other legal provisions merely proves the commission of offence against the person and property and negates the sole objective to prove that the incident was motivated by the caste factor.”

“Of the 39 charge-sheeted cases in the report, only one case is disposed of from Rajasthan, while 38 cases are under trial. The trial of these 38 cases is pending for more than 60 days, contrary to the Act’s provisions,” report’s findings say.

The report also analyses Dalit women’s challenges in accessing medical assistance and examination, contrary to the Guidelines and Protocols under Medico-legal care for survivors/victims of sexual violence given by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

Recommendations

The report hAs come up with a slew of recommendations which include holding public campaigns to create awareness on the provisions of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, states taking up violence prevention measures by mapping atrocity-prone areas, and setting up protection cells.

Effective implementation of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, and allocating adequate budget, and ensuring utilisation of funds for rehabilitation of survivors are the way forward, report said.

According to the Dalit women group, the education system should holistically include the importance of equality, justice, and dignity in Indian society and education on eradicating existing regressive social practices.

It also urged to ensure the reservation for Dalit women in State Assemblies and Parliament of India for the overall development thereof.